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Attributes for Now


Attributes for Now 1

This weekend’s Torah reading is: Special one we read during Pesach: Moshe asks to see God’s face. God says, “no one can see My face and live,” but makes a counter-offer: you stand in this cleft of rock and I will pass by, and you can see My afterimage. That’s what happens, and out of this story comes the passage we call the Thirteen Attributes, which we sing on Yom Kippur. It goes like this:

Attributes for Now 2

Some of you may have heard me say that the version we recite on Yom Kippur has been shortened from the original passage. The original reads:


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Oof. Can you imagine punishing your children for the crimes of their parents and grandparents? And that goes on to four generations. I’m guessing some of us feel a little bit squeamish about that. That’s not how I want to imagine God!  Here’s how I understand the verse, though. For me it’s not about God throwing lightning bolts of punishment at future generations. It’s more like a description of trauma. Trauma has ripple effects that affect generations.

I’ve been paying a lot of attention recently to how trauma flows through our lineage. The Holocaust is one of the most prominent examples in recent history. For…

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